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New Independent Distributor Adds Cannes Titles to Expanding Slate

10 Jun, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Vertical Entertainment founding partners Mitch Budin and Rich Goldberg were thinking long-term when they thought up the name for their distribution company, which officially launched during the Cannes International Film Festival.

“We wanted a name that was simple and would resonate,” Budin said. “The way we’re going is up.”

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company with a staff of five aims to distribute two films each month — via theatrical, VOD and home entertainment — for a total of 24 each year to start. Vertical Entertainment already has acquired Rushlights and Hot Flashes, heading to theaters in 10 cities June 21 and July 12, respectively.

Rushlights — which stars Josh Henderson, Haley Webb, Beau Bridges and Aidan Quinn — follows two reckless teenage lovers from the suburbs of Los Angeles as they travel to a small Texas town to falsely claim a dead friend’s inheritance. It is slated for a July 30 home video release.

Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes, Virginia Madsen, Daryl Hannah and Camryn Manheim star in Hot Flashes, about an unlikely group of middle-aged women who go through extreme lengths while challenging high school girls basketball champs in a breast cancer fundraiser game. The comedy will be available on disc Aug. 13.

“Moviegoers are evolving the way they see entertainment,” Goldberg said in a statement. “Our goal is to create innovative ways to reach our audiences and work in tandem with filmmakers to debut their films to the masses. With two big movies, Rushlights and Hot Flashes, already set for release, we are sure to be a contender in the independent film space.”

These are “theatrical-quality” films with “studio-quality” talent, with indie-level budgets, Budin said.

While at Cannes 2013, held last month, the company acquired all U.S. rights to the Josh Duhamel-helmed drama Scenic Route, heading to theaters Aug. 23, and 3D Russian animated feature The Snow Queen, slated for a DVD release in November.

“The festivals where they have markets, such as Cannes and AFM, offer us the best opportunities to procure films from the widest array of content owners,” Budin said. “At the festivals, we’ll be targeting eight to 10 theatrical releases a year, with three already secured since the inception of the company two months ago.”

The company also plans to add SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festival to their list of priority events.

Vertical Entertainment’s co-presidents have different but complementary backgrounds and a combined 40 years of industry experience. Budin formerly was immersed in sales divisions at Vivendi Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation and Warner Bros., while Goldberg previously held a senior management position with Lightning Entertainment.

Both principals have strong ties to the home entertainment arena, developing relationships with international film sales companies, agencies and producers, in addition to national retailers, wholesalers and digital players, such as Netflix and iTunes, throughout North America.

Regarding Vertical’s competitive advantage, Budin said, “Rich and I manage the day-to-day business operations, specifically sales and marketing. We interface directly with all the key players across all platforms and offer an end-to-end solution for our content owners and partners. We manage the theatrical release, and all other rights for North America. Lastly, we manage two releases per month so we are able to focus on every single release.”

The company’s partners said they have a solid grasp on where they plan to take Vertical in the future.

“In five years, we hope to be a rooted independent film distributor that surfaces great product and connects the films with the evolving consumers through our sales and marketing experience from theatrical all the way through the various ancillary platforms,” Budin said.

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